Monday, 26 April 2010

What Race Pace?!

I’ve been taking everything a bit serious of late. My training is going well and I ran a total of 34 miles last week. I am now going to decrease my mileage for the Leeds Half. Time to taper. I did a couple of proper hill sessions last week as well. All in all, I feel bloody marvellous and a bit smug that (fingers crossed) everything is going so well.

However, something has been weighing on my mind. When I entered the Leeds Half I decided that my race pace would be about 10 minute miles. This is my first ever race and I have no idea what my race pace for this distance should be. 10 minute miles seemed appropriate for someone who had just started running and just stopped smoking. However, over the last month I got the mad notion in my head that I wanted to complete the half marathon in less than two hours. This would mean more like nine minute miles. I have my doubts that this is even possible for me over 13.1 miles. I don’t want to run my first race and be disappointed with my time.

I need to readjust my goals so that I challenge myself but also enjoy the experience. I am bored of constantly checking my pace and worrying that I’m not quick enough to break two hours. There will be plenty of other races to chase times and PBs. I have to remember that the main goal is to get round and to get round without walking too much. My secondary goal is to finish within 10 minutes of two hours. The faster the better but there’s no pressure to achieve any time. It’s all got a bit serious with speed and hill training. I am still building up a base of fitness and have forgotten that it is the time on my feet which counts most of all at the moment. Fitness comes before speed.

I have to remember that my goal is to run an ultra-marathon next year and not to become super quick at the shorter distances! Distance is the key then the speed will take care of itself. Given the progress I have made in the last three months it will be interesting to see what I can do by the end of the year.

One of the key aspects of training that I have struggled with is nutrition. My running sessions have given me a tremendous appetite which makes it all too easy to indulge in fatty and sugary foods. I have kept my calorie intake at a reasonably constant and low level and have seen the results on my physique. However, I do not eat enough of the right sort of calories. I feel that it is necessary to set up some guidelines that will help me to eat more healthily whilst still making sure I have the energy to run.

These are some criteria for a more healthy diet. Check that the food is either a carbohydrate (the more complex the better); fish or lean meat; fruit or vegetable; or a combination of these. After this, check that the food is low fat and/or low sugar. Finally, make sure that the portion size is not too large (around 300-400 calories). If I think about these points before every meal I should be able to up my intake of fruit and veg whilst lowering my sugar and fat consumption. Let’s see how it goes.

All in all I feel my training is going well and I particularly enjoy the longer distances. I need to be careful not to get caught up in the pace statistics of my training. I am after all, a newbie in the running world. Speed-work will come into play after I have established a proper base of fitness. More than anything, I am going to try and enjoy my half marathon.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

I Am Upgrading

I approached this week of training with an equal amount of determination and trepidation. I was determined to increase my mileage and intensity and mildly nervous about the little niggle gremlin in my right hamstring. The main rule for the next few weeks is to train hard and to train sensibly.

My Wednesday run was an easy and most enjoyable 6 miler. The weather was perfect and really reminded me how nice running is when I’m not legging it as fast as I can. When I started this running madness just three months ago I had one speed: flat out. Whatever the mileage, I was struggling at the edge of my fitness just to keep running. Now I have gears. My fitness has improved enough for me to shift up and down these gears in accordance to the conditions and how I’m feeling. This might seem blindingly obvious to running veterans but it’s a new and pleasantly surprising piece in my fitness puzzle. I suppose it’s like a car. I started off with only first gear and now I have cruise control. I am upgrading. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that when the weather is pleasant it’s jolly nice just to go for a good old fashioned jog.

It’s serious now. My Thursday session was an interval workout and my cunning plan was to do this on a treadmill at the gym. I don’t like to use the gym for running. I’m always puzzled by people pounding out the miles on the treadmill and think “the countryside is a quarter of a mile away! Go use it.” However, I am coming round to the fact that the treadmill may have its advantages in some situations. Firstly, for interval work I can run exact distances at an exact speed. Secondly, there are no horrible hills to destroy what would be a perfectly fast interval. These are important for interval work and as I don’t have access to a track, not something I would be able to do outdoors. So, to the gym. I ran three one mile intervals at 7.76mph with a half mile at 6mph either side of each. This totalled five miles at an average pace of approximately 8.28 min/mile. I was pleased with this session as I am really getting a feel for going faster.

Friday: tempo run. This is a weird observation but bear with me for a sec. As I was on the treadmill I noticed how quiet my footsteps were compared with everyone else. With a bit of concentration I was able to run almost silently with just the whine of the treadmill in the background. I think this means I have quite an efficient stride. I’ve never noticed this before but it seems like quite a good thing and something to nurture.

My long run on Saturday went pretty well. I ran 11.16 miles which is the furthest I’ve ever run. I was a little slow but it was fiercely hot and I sweated an absolute bucket. I used the same strategy I used last week which was to run for a mile and then walk for a minute. This is something I want to phase out over the next couple of weeks. My hydration and nutrition was spot on and my only weak point was on a huge steep hill about half way round. My legs just stopped working and I had to take a few minutes walking break. Hills still kill me on the up and the down. My fitness struggles on the way up and my legs hurt on the way down. Must get better.

I pushed a bit hard on my Sunday easy run. I got a bit carried away in the middle of my five miles and ran a six and a half minute mile. Very stupid. I have to train hard but sensible. Being disciplined enough to meet my targets is as important the ability not to exceed them. The recovery runs are as important as the tempo sessions. I must learn to respect that.

I have run 32.5 miles this last week. I have done tempo and interval sessions. I have run a long run, had recovery sessions and done three cross training workouts. More importantly, I have done this with no injuries or niggles. Apart from a few minor notes of caution I am very pleased with this week. I’ve got to keep this momentum and positivity going into the final few weeks before the Leeds Half.

Monday, 12 April 2010

It's Now or Never

Last week was my first week back to full training after being injured. Unfortunately, I had to work an extra shift so my Wednesday run had to be cancelled. On Thursday I ran a race pace 5.72 miles at 9.22 min/mile. This pace was hard work and it felt like I was on the edge of what I’m physically capable of. I am slightly doubtful of whether I could keep it up over a half-marathon. We shall see.

My Friday run was a hill session. I ran slowly for one mile and then ran up and down the hill that I hate three times. I was expecting this to be really hard but it was actually quite easy. Looking back on it I should have done it a few more times. A longer hill might be more effective to my overall fitness.

The Saturday was my long run. I ran round Llyn Brenig, a very nice route of 9.26 miles. My pace was 10.10 min/mile which was approximately what I was aiming for. I ran each mile then walked for a minute which was a nice system for me and allowed me to keep hydrated in the heat. It was about 16 degrees Celsius which is hotter than I’m used to but I drank each mile and consumed 1500ml of water throughout. It was also the first run that I used gels to keep my energy up. The orange Lucazade gels gave me a real boost taken at 30 and 60 minutes and they did not disagree with my stomach in any way. One more will be required for the half-marathon distance. I felt pleasantly tired afterwards but not uncomfortably so. My legs and feet were stiff but that passed by the next day. I am very pleased with this run.

On Sunday I ran an easy 5 miles with my dad. My pace was 10.47 min/mile and was very comfortable. This was an extremely enjoyable recovery run and it was nice to have some company. I cross-trained on Friday and Sunday using the cross trainer and rowing machine at the gym. In addition to this I did some strength training focusing predominantly on the core muscles. I am hoping that this will improve my running form. Overall, it was a very productive week. The next two weeks are vitally important in my preparation for the Leeds Half. I need to control my weight, complete every session with focus and intensity; and avoid any injuries. This is my updated schedule for the last month of training. Here’s hoping it all goes well.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Back On The Road With A Plan

Firstly, I have some good news. Through my recovery running last week I think (touch wood) that my hamstring strain has fully repaired itself. On the downside I think my fitness has suffered a little but it’s important that I motivate myself to build it back up. I am very excited to get back on the road and I don't want to get demoralised by a slight dip in performance. In three months I have gone from struggling to run one mile at 12 min/mile to running eight miles at 9.5 min/mile. I have run a total of 141.07 enjoyable and fullfilling miles. There is nothing to be demoralised about. I have come quite a long way.

I was also going to do a 10k race at about this point in my training but I have decided against it. Due to my injury I have already missed two long runs. These are an important keystone in my preparation and I think it would be a mistake to miss another one in favour of a race. I feel a bit sad at not doing a shorter race but I also feel I need to concentrate on the longer runs before the tapering period in my training. 13.1 miles is still a long way.

My aim is to complete the Leeds Half Marathon in about two hours. To do this I must capitalise on every advantage in the last month of training. As a consequence I will further reduce my calorie intake down to 1300 per day. This is in an effort to lose as much fat as possible before race day. This will be difficult but will be beneficial to my performance.

During my period of rest I have come up with a long run and race plan (see below) that I think might be useful. I know this is a bit obsessive but I do like a good plan.



Normal weather: hydration belt, water, three gels, camera, phone, hat, sunglasses, ipod, map.
Inclement or unpredictable weather: camelback, coat, extra top, water, four gels, camera, phone, hat, gloves, windbreaker, map.


Disposable top, disposable poncho, belt pack, hat, gels, keys, bank card.

Race bag: sports drink, Snickers, trousers, jumper, small towel, disposable poncho, safety pins, marker pen, socks.


In car: complete change of clothes and shoes, two towels, hot drink, sports drink, food, water, deep heat, ibuprofen, blanket, insulating blanket, book.


Note – Piss as often as possible.
T-03.00: Breakfast – muesli & milk/one slice of brown bread with jam/banana or apple/500ml water.
T-02:40: Shave, moisturise and dress according to the weather.
T-02.00: Pack equipment, fill water and pack lunch.
T-00.30: Warm up for 10 minutes and stretch (incorporated into training runs).
T-00.15: Prepare for run.


0600: Get up and shower and shave. 500ml sports drink.
0630: Eat breakfast & water.
0700: Drive to the race. Toilet.
0800: Race registration. Toilet.
0845: Warm up and keep
0900: Last toilet stop
0915: Line up to race.


0-1 miles = 10 min/mile.
1-7 miles = 9.5 min/mile.
8-12 miles = 8.5 min/mile.
12-13.1 miles = 7 min/mile.

Average pace: 8.9 min/mile.
Time: 1 hour and 57 minutes.


Immediately walk/jog for 10 minutes then stretch and take on fluids.
T+00.20: Get warm if possible. Keep moving.
T+00.45: Eat within one hour. Keep moving.
T+01.00: Begin journey home if at a race.